While the internet makes the world smaller, local business owners focus on their local markets for obvious reasons. Brick-and-mortar businesses serve the local population. Interestingly, over 95% of people learn about local companies online. For this reason, local business owners should ensure their online presence is strong. One of the best ways to do that is to optimize their Google Business Profile (GBP) for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). 

A GBP is free, though having one has become essential to businesses in all industries, especially those that serve local markets. Optimizing your profile is easy and takes only a little time to complete and maintain.

What Is Google Business Profile?

GBP is a free platform provided by Google. Business owners can claim or create a profile for their business. A GBP profile offers a place to add business information, enables your business to appear on Google and Google Maps, provides information to searchers, and provides a place for customers to post business reviews. To qualify for a GBP, your business needs a physical location where you offer in-person services. 

Formerly known as Google My Business, GBP lets you upload your business location, photos, services, products, and other relevant information like business hours. Creating a profile increases your company’s visibility online. It also increases the appearance of your business in searches on Google Search and Google Maps.

Why a GBP Is Important

One of the most important reasons to have a GBP profile is to enable your business to show on Google Search and Maps. What’s more, any third-party platform that uses Google Maps’ API will also show your GBP in its results.

Even though you have a website for your business, a GBP ensures your business will appear in local searches. The GBP complements your existing company website by strengthening its identity and online presence. Essentially, your GBP and formal company website are linked, complementing each other and boosting search result rankings.

Keep in mind that your business may already be listed on Google. If so, you can claim it so you can then manage it and update the information as needed. You can (and should) edit your profile often to keep your contact information and store hours current. 

How to Optimize Your GBP for SEO

The first steps are to verify your business and then enter your pertinent business information, such as address, store hours, etc. From there, you’ll want to manage your profile and be sure to complete the following steps. Doing so allows you to fully optimize all GBP has to offer.

1. Verify Your Business

If your business has existed for a while, it likely has a profile already. Just perform a Google search for your business, and your profile will show. From there, you can select the prompt to claim the business.

Once you have either claimed or created your account, Google sends a four-digit code to your provided email address. This is your last step in the publishing process. After a short waiting period, your profile is public, and you can manage it, completing more details. 

2. Complete Your Profile

Once you’ve completed the verification process, take time to fill out your profile completely. Many fields are optional; however, filling them in makes your profile more robust and successful in search results and customer engagement (reviews, asking questions, etc.). In addition to the basics, like name, address, and contact information, be sure to fill in categories, service areas, and a detailed description of services. 

By detailing your services, you’re providing visitors with valuable information while also keeping them engaged in your profile longer. Google will recognize your profile as being more relevant and popular than your competitors.

Finally, remember to include SEO keywords in your business description to optimize the SEO better. You apply the same keywords here as you would to your website. You can also include keywords in any postings you add to your profile later on.

3. Ensure Consistency Across the Web

While your GBP may be up to date, take time to ensure your name, address, and phone number (NAP) are correct across all local online directories. Google does notice when the address or phone numbers aren’t the same on, say, your website, social media page, and your GBP. When that happens, you risk an SEO penalty, which, in turn, lowers your search rankings. 

While your company website is closely connected to your GBP, remember to check your social media and other platforms wherever you have business information posted. It should be consistent across all channels to avoid discrepancies.

4. Choose the Most Relevant Service Categories

Service categories impact how or whether Google displays your local business in organic search results. Take care to select the most relevant categories for your business. You will choose one primary category and up to nine secondary ones. There are thousands of choices available so that you can select all the secondary categories regardless of your industry.

Just be sure all your selections are relevant so the search results are accurate and allow users to find exactly what they are looking for. It’s usually easier to select the primary category, and it may be tempting to stretch a little too much when selecting the secondary ones. Keep those as specific as possible to the services you provide. 

If need be, do some keyword research first to aid in selecting the categories. You may already have targeted keywords from a previous SEO keyword analysis for your website. The same keywords should apply to your GBP as well. Ultimately, the categories you choose determine what searches you can rank for. Selecting the more precise ones can lead to a significant jump in rankings. Likewise, choosing less relevant categories can lower your results. 

5. Upload Semi-Professional or Professional Images

Pictures play an essential role in optimizing your GBP. A well-designed image or professional-looking photo goes a long way in establishing legitimacy and professionalism. It also provides a glimpse into your business by showcasing your storefront or products. Quality images establish trust, which is a huge factor in business as well as SEO. Also, including images of your staff provides another layer of professionalism as well as a human touch. People enjoy seeing the faces behind the company name. 

Remember that images are content. So, be sure to optimize them by including appropriate captions, alt text, and geotags. All of these increase search rankings for both keyword and local searches. 

6. Get More Reviews

Once your GBP is set up, your next goal is to get more reviews added to your profile. Reviews increase your profile ranking on Google and Google Maps, and they also improve the click-through rate.

Reach out to satisfied customers individually and ask them to leave detailed reviews. The key here is that the reviews be legitimate, so avoid generating reviews that appear to be spammed. In addition, bots may be able to create dozens of reviews, but the language won’t be authentic. Your readers will pick up on that when reviewing your GBP. 

As the reviews come in, be sure to respond to them. This is your opportunity to show current and potential customers that you care about their experience. Responding to a negative review is especially valuable because it gives customers insight into how much you value customer satisfaction. You have the opportunity here to make things right. In some cases, the customer who left the bad review will revise it based on your response to their complaints.

7. Generate Posts on Your GBP

GBP allows you to create interactive posts on your profile, which appear in search results. Post announcements to your profile, like those you post to your website and social media platforms, that contain updates to your business, promotions, or other events. Be sure to include photos and images where appropriate. Quality posts increase user engagement and generate more traffic to your business.

8. Use the Attributes Feature

One area that’s often overlooked is the attributes feature. Filling those in makes your profile all the more searchable. To address these fields, go to the More tab and scroll through the From The Business and other subcategories. Answer the questions to apply any relevant information.

Some statements allow you to identify your business as Black-owned, veteran-owned, women-owned, or LGBTQ+-friendly, for example. You can even provide information as to the amenities available, such as family or gender-neutral bathrooms.

9. Take Advantage of Messaging

Customers can send messages to you through your profile. To better respond to those, download the Google Business Profile app and enable messaging. That way, you receive alerts whenever a customer messages, and you can respond right away, thus establishing contact and encouraging customer engagement. Responsiveness is a priority. Many customers will move on if they don’t receive a timely response from you.

10. Ensure Your Profile Information Remains Accurate

Once you’ve filled out all the information on your GBP, you’ll want to manage your profile, ensuring that the information remains accurate. As businesses grow, location and hours may change. You may also expand, offering more services than before. If you are adding engaging posts to your profile, those will need refreshing every so often to remain current.

While this task seems simple enough, many businesses have outdated or incorrect information on their profiles. This can be especially damaging when the contact information is outdated and potential customers can’t reach you.

A simple way to update your profile is to add holiday hours as they apply. Another important item is to do what you can to have recent customer reviews to maintain your business’s credibility.

GBP Account Issues

If Google takes issue with your GBP account, Google may prompt you to make edits. In more severe cases, you may be suspended from Google. There are ways to correct both issues.

Google Edits 

Often, Google will edit your profile information or apply an edit you previously suggested. Then Google sends you a notification. In other instances, Google highlights the features they think must be changed. For example, they may suggest a different category for your business. The category will be highlighted. When you click on it, a suggestion appears. You can apply the change or reject it.

Suspension

If Google determines your local business profile goes against their guidelines, they may suspend it. Suspension can occur for having multiple profiles for the same business, an incorrect business name, or posting forbidden content.

Once you have corrected the information, you can ask Google to review your account. There is a reinstatement form available that requires you to enter your contact information and an explanation of what happened and how you corrected the issue. 

GBP Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Optimizing your GBP for SEO should show a return for your hard work. You’ll be able to see the effectiveness of your changes in the GBP Performance dashboard. There, you can track the KPIs that illustrate how well your profile is performing. 

The KPIs you want to evaluate are events, phone calls, and website clicks. Once your profile is complete and you have become adept at posting updates, you should see activity rising in all three areas.

Another critical area to monitor is how well your profile is performing in organic searches. Here again, the Performance dashboard shows all the relevant insights needed to evaluate and improve your local search ranking. You can see how many people viewed your profile and how many GBP searches you appeared in during a selected month. 

In addition, you can learn the following:

  • What actions customers took on your profile
  • How many customers contacted you through your GBP profile
  • How many calls you received during a specific month
  • Which profile sources generate the highest number of searches
  • How many customers found your business via search

GBP as Your New Virtual Storefront

No matter what type of business you own, whether retail, food service, repair service, or something else, you need a GBP, especially when you serve your local community. Just about everyone searches online for local businesses, so it’s essential that you establish your digital presence on Google, optimize it, and schedule time to manage future changes. Weekly or even daily reminders will assist you in managing your profile, making updates, and responding to any customer inquiries.

Google Business Profile has become a virtual storefront for local businesses, so ignoring your profile is detrimental to any marketing strategies you may have in place. 

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